A Deal with the Henna | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 10, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, May 10, 2018

A Deal with the Henna

It was late noon or early afternoon in an insignificant city, and a certain rickshaw was roaming the insignificant streets of that insignificant city with an unsettling smugness.

There was something strange about this rickshaw only a passerby who was unnecessarily and clinically observant would notice. Everyone in the street noticed. But no one was really the least bit eager to do anything about it.

The rickshaw itself, anatomically, artistically and aesthetically, was as ordinary as it can get. Its occupants, on the other hand, were not.

The driver wore a lungi with a hue of red that was unimaginable by any passerby, or any mortal for that matter. Under the customary burning sunshine of a late noon or early afternoon, the colour was glowing. He also fashioned a goatee of the same colour, which everyone concluded was a result of henna of the highest value.

But it was the passenger who overwhelmed the attention of the passersby. He was a man, an ordinary man. A man who could be replaced by any other man and nobody would have noticed. And this man, who should act like every other man, had the audacity to have pulled the rickshaw's hood over him. The passersby looked away in disgust, some covered their eyes in sickening horror. In doing so, they failed to see that the passenger was sweating with an unnatural and quite unhealthy energy.

And so he should have. He was about to make the deal of his life.

“You know how many times I've made this deal?” asked the driver, his goatee swaying in the breeze. “Many?” replied the passenger, hopeful to get everything as vague and correct as possible. “Many,” the driver nodded. An unnerving silence fell. The passenger continued desperately, “But I'm different. I'm better. I'm worth it.”

“Ah-ha,” the driver nodded, unconvinced, his goatee swaying. “How so?”

The passenger cleared his throat, and with the confidence of an interviewee with the right connections, he recited the speech he had readied with the help of the right connections, “My offering comes in three parts. First is the allegiance, which will be unwavering, unfaltering and completely blind. Second comes the will, the will to let go of my bindings as a mortal, and also as a proper citizen of society. Lastly, the sacrifice, the tangible offering, the soul.”

The passenger gulped a resounding gulp as he finished. The driver stayed unfazed, his feet methodically peddling and his beard passionately swaying. After some thought, he said, “The will to stop being a good citizen was a good addition, I must say. Does it cover being unnecessarily rude and completely disregarding street etiquettes?”

“Yes, yes of course”

“Hmm,” the driver nodded. “Now, about the sacrifice bit. The soul is, of course, a very important aspect but it's obligatory to the deal. You knew that right?”

“Umm, yes.”

“Then I don't see how mentioning that adds anything to you being different, better and worthy.”

The passenger gulped yet another resounding gulp. The driver was beginning to get annoyed with it and played with the thought of complete dehydration to stop it altogether. The passenger, in the meantime, managed a reply, “Okay, so, along with the soul, I am ready to sacrifice my self-respect, personal beliefs, conscience and, umm, sanity, whenever duty calls.”

“Uhh yes, that's more like it,” the passenger smiled. “Okay, lastly, your allegiance, albeit impressive, lacks a certain clincher.” The passenger was anticipating this. Although he had feared the moment, he was now rather relieved to have come to this stage of the deal without rejection or any sort of disfigurement.

At this point, if the passenger had pulled down the rickshaw's hood and the passersby consequently had freed their sight for appreciating the rickshaw as a whole, they would have noticed that the driver's neck just turned a complete 180 while his feet peddled on and his beard stopped swaying. Luckily for their sane self, the passenger kept the hood on. His sweating also subsided and he opened his mouth.

“Hmm,” the driver observed, “not red enough.” This was the cue. The passenger leaned forward and took it.

The driver fixed his neck back. His beard swayed and dripped. His eyes just stopped flickering and his smile signalled satisfaction. He swerved the rickshaw down a dark alley which was usually unpopulated due to a complete lack of tongs. He got down. The passenger followed. His mouth was still open, and considerably redder.

“Are you ready?”

The passenger nodded enthusiastically.

The driver nodded back. He put a finger on one of the passenger's nostrils and pulled out a long strand of red thin strand of smoke. The passenger's pupils went blank and his eyes glowed red along with his open mouth. The driver took the strand of soul to the flaps of his lungi.

The ceremony ended as the strand was wholly consumed. The passenger's eyes went back to normal. The passenger, although anatomically identical to the one 13 seconds ago, had an added superiority to his posture. The driver fixed his lungi. His goatee swayed and glowed a little more, if that's even possible. He pulled out the introductory presents from under the rickshaw's seat to complete the passenger's orientation.

“Oh boy, oh boy,” the passenger exclaimed looking at the presents laid before him. As he fiddled with the trinkets that comprised mainly of sharp objects, a two-wheeled vehicle and all-purpose permits, the driver flew away on his rickshaw, invariably forgetting the existence of the passenger. The passenger, while chanting the driver's name and titles every three breaths, held out one of the prizes with the happiness of all his deceased ancestors at his recent achievement. “A raamda,” he gasped, hugging it, “my favourite.”


Fatiul Huq Sujoy is a tired soul (mostly because of his frail body) who's patiently waiting for Hagrid to appear and tell him, “Ye're a saiyan, lord commander.” Suggest him places to travel and food-ventures to take at fb.com/SyedSujoy.

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